The added value of nursing conceptual model-based research


My passion for the idea of nursing discipline-specific knowledge in general and for nursing conceptual models in particular was catalysed in the early 1970s, when I was a graduate student at New York University studying with Martha Rogers, Florence Downs and Margaret Newman. My passion for nursing conceptual model-guided research also was catalysed at that time. My understanding of how to link nursing conceptual models and nursing research has grown over the years, through my own research, mentoring experiences with colleagues and doctoral students and reading other nurses’ reports of their research. Bakan and Akyol’s report of their Roy Adaptation Model (RAM) of Nursing-guided study, published in this issue of JAN, has added to my understanding.

Bakan and Akyol have filled a gap in nursing knowledge by developing and testing a RAM-based nursing intervention for patients with heart failure. They explained the links between the RAM concepts and the middle-range theory concepts (i.e. the study variables, including the experimental adaptation programme, the outcomes, and other relevant variables) and then identified the empirical indicators, including the experimental conditions and instruments, used to measure the variables. The result is an exemplary narrative and pictorial conceptual–theoretical–empirical (C-T-E) structure for their study that attests to the cross-cultural relevance of the RAM.

Bakan and Akyol have increased all researchers’ understanding of how a nursing conceptual model can guide the development and testing of a nursing intervention. Those researchers who maintain that nursing conceptual models are superfluous when designing empirical studies will benefit from reading Bakan and Akyol’s paper, as will those researchers who are struggling to forge links from conceptual model concepts to middle-range theory concepts and empirical indicators.

I believe that all nursing research has some value and makes some contribution to advancement of knowledge. I also believe that all research is guided by some conceptual model. However, the added value of research that is guided by a nursing conceptual model needs to be emphasized. Indeed, nursing discipline-specific knowledge will advance only if all nurse researchers tell their readers, as Bakan and Akyol (2008) did, how a nursing conceptual model guided their studies. Therefore, I encourage all nurse researchers to read Bakan and Akyol’s paper and reflect on what conceptual model – nursing or non-nursing – guides each of their studies. I urge all researchers to explicitly identify the conceptual model, so that readers will not have to guess within what conceptual context the study was conducted. If the conceptual model comes from another discipline, I encourage the researchers to explain how the use of a non-nursing perspective can advance nursing knowledge or why nurses would want to direct their efforts to advance the knowledge of other disciplines.

I have expressed my concern for the survival of the discipline because too many researchers have abandoned or ignored nursing conceptual models (Fawcett 2003). Bakan and Akyol’s paper has rekindled my optimism about the future of our discipline. I can only hope that all readers will appreciate the added value of nursing research that is guided by an explicit nursing conceptual model.